The Harnisch Family

The Harnisch Family

Jul 9, 2012

La Paz, Bolivia day 5: the lows of El Alto & the HIGH at Daniel's Graduation from Kaya celebration

Our 5th day in Bolivia was by far the most shocking and eye-opening.
We spent the majority of our day touring the impoverished, slum streets of El Alto. (John elaborates on it a bit further at the end of this post)
Needless to say, A wide range of experiences triggered an even wider array of emotions...

First we visited a place in El Alto, called Word Made Flesh (which is actually based out of Omaha, NE) & learned about the harsh realities of prostitution & human trafficking.  Such a wonderful ministry whose mission is to help these young women of Bolivia "AWAKEN" - "HEAL" - "RESTORE".

Word Made Flesh (vision statement) is called and committed to serve Jesus among the most vulnerable of the world’s poor. This calling is realized as a prophetic ministry for, and an incarnational, holistic mission among the poor. We focus our energy to make Jesus known among the poor while reconciling the church with the poor.
one of the workrooms at Case De Esperanza
Down in the large sewing room in the basement, where many women are able to put themselves to good, healthy productive work.
shelves of fabric used to make their staple bags.  Our group just about BOUGHT THEM OUT!  And brought home several as souvenirs for our family & friends.  :-)
the wall outside the daycare area...a warm, inviting and safe place for their young children to be while they work and recieve counseling, etc...
view from one of the top floor counseling rooms.
Next, we got an up-close & personal view at how many people in this city live and work.  Just thinking about all these negative influences, and how vulnerable these children are, makes me sad.  Sick to my stomach to be perfectly honest.

To add to the craziness of this already corrupt city/government...the Policia De Boliviano's had been on strike since our arrival.  Which is one of the reasons we did not go out during the night to minister to children living on the streets.  Oh and one of the airlines was on strike which caused the airport to shut down for a few days during our stay as well.  We've come to find out that blockades, protests, rally's, demonstrations, marches & riots are apparently a familiar site here.

It's just unbelievable...we went from lowest of the low, as we toured the streets and markets of El Alto - hopelessness, darkness, despair, had a real sense of fear for a few brief later in the day, being a part of a special young man's graduation from Kaya as he becomes "independent". It all makes sense...A full circle day indeed!
the streets were dark, narrow, polluted and congested with cars & people.
this baby girls hangs out on a street corner playing with plastic cups as her mom works a coconut booth.
oh the smells.  wide range of yucky nasty smells still linger in my nose...over a week later.
these tangled knots of wires & lines are everywhere. What a MESS!  How would anyone make sense of that??
our group staying as close together as possible.  walking fast and keeping eyes forward.
young child (age 4??) all by himself in an electronics booth.  I think this was on the "street of stolen goods".  but the real question is..."where are his parents?"
back in La Paz to grab a late (2pm) lunch.

the younger girls are exhausted, trying to sneak in a quick nap before lunch arrives at our tables.
that would be the protest/demonstration/rally taking place on St. Fransisco Square - we were enjoying the view from seven stories up.
riot police (nice to see they are no longer on strike apparently) separating the opposing groups.
some political figure driving through the closed off streets...waving their flag.  
So surreal.  Certainly not something we see back home in Nebraska every day...Bus loads of more riot police were soon to follow.  It was at that point that John decided we were done eating, we needed to catch cabs and get out of here fast.  Before the march started, they close more streets and we got stuck there.  We made it out in seemingly perfect time!

Later that evening we walked over to the Kaya Center for Daniel's graduation celebration.
On the way, John randomly ran into some old friends.  He and his wife Michelle lived in La Paz for a few years working with Kaya.
Cindy and Daniel
Me and Daniel
Christina and Cindy
John & Ximena share heartwarming words and prayers Daniel.  And present gifts.
Daniel's brother, Cesar, shares some words too.  :-)
Daniel was presented with a few gifts.
apparently this arm wrestling match was a long time coming...I think Daniel beat Pastor John.
Scott was up next...
it was a close match...
for a few seconds...
they hugged it out.
What a great way to finish out the day!!  Congrats Daniel, we are all so very proud of you and wish all the best on your new journey!  God's blessings.

Here's what Pastor John had to say about our day over at his blog:

Full Circle

Today was an emotional day for me, as anyone on our team would confirm. It wasn't the start of the day, but the end. Really today would have given anyone a full view of what Kaya does. From walking the streets of El Alto to celebrating Daniel graduating and leaving the home to begin his independent life. It's no small transition. For me the day was emotion because of the incredible pride I have in Daniel's life. Not pride over anything I've done, but simply proud of the responsible, honest, caring and faithful young man that Daniel has become. Tonight was not only an important moment in his journey, for me it was an important moment in celebrating the fruits of years of investment from the Kaya staff, donors and those who have prayed for our kids. When one sees the life of someone they've invested in, someone you've journeyed with through some challenging moments and time you thank God and you feel proud. As Daniel said, years ago he left his home (of abuse) without vision or direction and with fear. Today he leaves home knowing he has the safety and love of a family to support him wherever God leads him.
This morning we visited El Alto, the poor slum city in the altiplano (high plane) of Bolivia. There we visited Word Made Flesh to hear about their ministry working with women in the sex trade. We learned there are over 3,500 registered sex workers in the city. Word Made Flesh works to awaken, heal and restore through working on the streets, spending time in therapy and providing alternative income for these women.
After Word Made Flesh we went to tour the city of El Alto, walking the streets of the Ceja area. What most "street children" do now is walk the streets during the day or night, often to rob, and then sleep in either hostels during the day or "movie theaters." The streets are littered with brothels, and hostels where younger girls go to "work" or kids sleep. We went into theater today, a literally and figuratively dark place. For $0.30 the kids can go in for as long as they want, sitting in rooms laying on beaten up couches to rest. The theaters are filled with odors of dirt, urine and filth, some there to watch, some there to sleep, some there to do something altogether different. Upstairs is a horror film, with more children sleeping. Most of the children though are found behind two metal doors, padlock hanging on the door unhooked, filled with men, youth and children watching a film no child should see. As you leave your eyes are blinded again by the bright lights of the direct sun, stepping into a market area mixed with people to shop, drunks, and others there with more devious plans for our group or anyone unaware of their surroundings. El Alto is covered with a darkness that seems to entrap people's lives. Even in theater sat one youth who had recently moved into El Alto, already trapped in the darkness of this world.
Tomorrow we once again experience the light of the work of Kaya. We have the blessing of taking our kids from Kaya to Tiwanaku for the day. A handful of us will also head to Calauma, a youth prison, where we will visit two former residents of the Kaya homes who left years ago. Below are a handful of pictures. Not many places to take pictures. Sorry, no videos today, we were not in places where you'd take a video. If you want to hear more about these dark corners of the world ask someone on our team.
Pictures from Day 5
As always, a direct link to the album if you have problems viewing.

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